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were not recovered out of a lost estate by him, but they were continued in their first estate by him. Hence it is that God 'gathered all things in heaven and earth unto a head in him;' Eph. i. 10. And there is a great deal to the same purpose in that expression of the apostle, when he had mentioned principalities and powers, Col. i. 17. In him all things consist;' they have their consistence in him. All would dissolve and fall to nothing, if they had not their consistence in Jesus Christ. Certainly this is a love that passes knowledge, that is the fountain and spring of all the glory that is in heaven. If God help us by faith to look within the veil, and to take a view of all those glories wherewith the holy God is encompassed, we shall see that this love is the fountain and spring of them, the interposition of Christ saved the creation, and brought in that everlasting glory that shall dwell in heaven. God knows this love, God understands the way of it; but as to us it passes knowledge.
Again, 2. This love of Christ passes the comprehension and knowledge of angels; and therefore Peter tells us, 1 Epist. i. 12. speaking of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that followed, 'Which things,' says he, 'the angels desire to bow down and 'look into.' The angels in heaven live in an admiration of the love of Christ unto sinners, that is, that love he expressed in suffering, and in the glory that did ensue. And O! what thoughts ought we to have of this love, who have all the benefits of it? The angels had no benefit by the sufferings of Christ, but their benefit and advantage ensued on the assumption of the human nature to bring the creation into a consistence, and his interposition between God and all his creatures. They admire and adore it. What ought such poor creatures as we are to do? It may well be said to pass our knowledge, for it passes the knowledge of all the angels in heaven.
3. It passes knowledge, in that the effects of it in Christ himself pass all our knowledge and comprehension.
To give but two instances: (1.) His condescension to assume our human nature passes all our comprehension. No man can fully understand the mystery of the assumption of our nature into the personal subsistence of the Son of God. Some dispute whether we shall understand the mystery of
the incarnation in heaven; here we believe it. It is love which passes knowledge that the eternal Son of God should take our nature into personal union with himself; it is that we may admire and ought to admire; and God help us, we are such poor earthly creatures that we cannot admire it as we ought; though it be much in our nature to admire what we cannot comprehend.
(2.) We cannot fully understand his passion and sufferings. God alone knows what is in the curse of the law; we do not know it. God alone knows what is the true desert of sin; it cannot be fully understood by any but himself. They who undergo it must suffer to eternity; there is no end; they never see, never knew what sin deserved. How do we know then what Christ suffered, when the punishment due to our sin, when all our iniquities met upon him, with the curse of the law? God only knows what is in these things; the fruits and effects of this love in himself, in his incarnation and passion, are past our knowledge, therefore the love itself surpasses our knowledge.
4. Give me leave to say, The very fruits of it in ourselves do pass knowledge. No man that lives knows what there is in these three general heads of the fruits of Christ's love, in justification and pardon of sin, in the renovation and sanctification of our natures, and in the inhabitation and consolations of the Holy Spirit. No man living can find out these things to perfection. None of us fully understands and comprehends what it is to be justified in the sight of God, to have sin pardoned, to have our natures renewed, and transformed into the likeness of God, and to have the Holy Ghost dwell in us. The love of Christ therefore passes all knowledge, for the very fruits of it in ourselves are beyond what we can comprehend; there is a greatness in them we cannot reach unto. Why then, my brethren, let us labour to have our hearts affected with this love. If God would be pleased to give unto every one of us some sense and impression of the greatness of this love of Christ, glance it into our hearts, beam it upon us in this ordinance, we should have cause to bless him all the days of our lives. The faith and light of it issue in admiration; the light of glory will bring us to comprehension. Let us have such a sense as may cause us to admire what we cannot now comprehend.
(1.) I could speak something, but I will not now, to the actings of faith in admiration; it being the proper nature of faith to issue itself in the admiration of that which is infinite. If we can get our souls up to a holy admiration of this love, we have some gracious sense of it upon our hearts, if we can go no farther.
(2.) Let us learn to run up all the mercies we are par takers of, whatsoever it be we value, to the proper spring, 'who loved me, and gave himself for me.' If we have any relief, or supply, or refreshment of soul, in a sense of pardon of sin, in spiritual light or consolation, pray let us exercise ourselves to run up all these things to the fountain: it is all from the love of Christ, that unspeakable love which passes knowledge,
(3.) In this let us be ashamed, seeing the love of Christ to us is such as passes our knowledge, our love to him is so weak, that sometimes we know not whether we have any or not. For this let us be greatly humbled. This is not the way to answer that love which passes knowledge, to know not whether we love Christ again or not. Let us be ashamed for our want of love.
And lastly, Let us abound in praise and thanksgiving for his love, and all the fruits of it.
For my part I do not know, whether that vision in Rev. v. 9. does express the rejoicing of the church above, or the duty of the church below; but both I am sure are of so near affinity, that apply it to which you will, you do not miss it. And what do they there? why, it is said, "They sang a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book and to open the seals of it; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests,' &c. And it is said again, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing;' and again he repeats it in ver. 13. I say, I know not whether this be a represen tation of the rejoicing of the church above, or a representation of the duty of the church below; but I can conclude from it, that the enjoyment of the one and the duty of the other, consists greatly in continual giving praise and thanksgiving to Christ for his unspeakable love in our redemption.
WE are met here to remember the death of Christ in the way and by the means that he himself hath appointed, and in remembering the death of Christ we are principally to remember the love of Christ; who loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood;' and that which on our part is required herein is faith in Christ who died for us, and love to Christ who loved us so as to give himself an offering and a sacrifice to God for us.
1. That which I would now observe is this (to make way for the stirring up of our love), That the person of Christ is the adequate complete object of the love of God, and of the whole creation that bears the image of God, I mean, the church of God above, the angels and saints; and the church of God below in believers, which are the creation that has the image of God upon it.
The person of Christ is the first complete object of the love of God the Father. A great part (if I may so speak, and I must so speak) of the essential blessedness of the holy Trinity consists in the mutual love of the Father and the Son, by the Holy Ghost, which is the love of them bot.
That which I would now take notice of, I say, as the foundation of all, is this, that the divine nature in the person of the Son, is the only full, resting, complete object of the love of God the Father. I will give you a place or two of Scripture for it, and so go on to another instance, Prov. viii. 30. 'Then,' saith he, that is from everlasting, 'was I by him, as one brought up with him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him,' that is, as the special object of his love; as among you men, one that is brought up with you, as your child is. The delight of the Father from all eternity was in the Son. The ineffable love and mutual delight of the Father and the Son by the Spirit, is that which is the least notion we have of the blessedness of the eternal God. John i. 18. The only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father.' Pray observe it, that I speak yet only of the divine person of Christ antecedent unto his incarnation, and the ineffable mutual love of the blessed persons in
* Delivered February 18, 1676.
the holy Trinity, which Jesus Christ wonderfully sets out in John xvii. There is his relation unto God, he is the only begotten Son,' by eternal generation; what follows?' he is in the bosom of the Father,' is in the Father's eternal infinite love. Herein is God's love; and every thing else of love is but a free act of the will of God, a free emanation from this: eternal love between the Father and the Son. God never did any thing without himself, but the end of it was to manifest what is in himself. The old and new creation that God hath wrought was to manifest what was in himself. God made this world to manifest his power and wisdom; God made the new world by Jesus Christ to manifest his grace, his love, goodness, &c.
The sole reason why there is such a thing as love in the world, among the creatures, angels, or men, that God ever implanted it in the nature of rational creatures, it was, that it might shadow and represent the ineffable eternal love that the Father had unto the Son, and the Son unto the Father by the Spirit.
Contemplative men of old did always admire love, wherein they would have the life, lustre, and glory of all things to consist, but they could never see the rise of it: and they traced some things to this, that God necessarily loved himself; and it is true, it cannot otherwise be; but God's loving of himself, absolutely as God, is nothing but his eternal blessed acquiescence in the holy, self-sufficing properties of his nature. This they had some reach after; but of this eternal ineffable love of the Father to the Son, and of the Son to the Father by the Spirit,' that they had no conjecture of. Yet this is the fountain and spring-head; and all such things as love in the old and new creation, as I said, is but to resemble and shadow out this great prototype of divine love. I acknowledge there is little discerned of these things, by reason of the weakness of our understandings; but the Scripture having so directly declared to us the mutual love of the Father and the Son (which truly is of such singular use, that I would fix persons upon it in conceiving of the doctrine of the Trinity), that it is matter of admiration and thankfulness to us. Here lies the foundation of all love, whereunto we hope to reduce our love unto Christ, viz. in the unchangeable love of the Father to the Son.